How to Celebrate a Winter Holiday, According to a Florida Transplant

In most states, Santa's sleigh is pulled by reindeer. In Florida, it's pulled by ... wait for it ... horses!

FloridaSean Pavone/ShutterstockReader’s Digest editors asked the Reader’s Digest contributor network to reflect on the true meaning of community during the holiday season. The following piece was written in response to that prompt. To share your own 100-word true story for possible inclusion in the magazine or on, click here

Don’t Pray for Snow in Florida

When you grow up in Buffalo, it can snow from Halloween to Easter, but the only time you really want it to snow is Christmas. You start expectingand dreadingsnow just after Thanksgiving and through the first 23 days of December. But then something changes. You start watching the sky with hope, praying to see Santa in his sleigh with his little reindeer zipping over rooftops covered with white, fluffy snow.

Then you move to New York City, and you like the snow for almost the same reasons, except this time you count down the days to see old St. Nick in his sleigh within the famous Macy’s window displays. In another window, you see Santa’s elves busy making toys and presents while glittering paper snow twinkles on their windowsill.

Then, one day, the snow becomes too much, and you move to Florida, where there is no snowbut there’s still Christmas. In Florida, the anticipation is about the neighborhood Christmas party and all the ways that people celebrate in warmth surrounded by green things growing, instead of the cold and snow of winter. (Don’t miss the hilarious Rick Bragg sound off on how southerners decorate for Christmas.)

And then it comes, and the sun is shining and it’s still warm outside. Maybe you’re driving along a road with a big expanse of grass on either side, and suddenly your husband goes, “Are those horses up there?” You squint. Yes, you can just make them out, nine horses, all in a row, trotting toward you on the grass. And then you see it: “Oh my God, that’s Santa Claus on that horse!” As they approach, you see he’s flanked by a cavalry troop of elves. They twinkle as they get closer, and the tropical sight makes you laugh so hard you cry.

Christmas in Florida is, in its own way, just the same as everywhere else. You’re inspired. You decide to write a song about it, and it goes something like this:

Horse bells ring, are you listening

On the grass, sun is glistening

A Florida sight

Oh, what a sight

Driving in Florida winterland.

Gone away are the reindeer

Far away is the sleigh, dear

We’ll sing a sun song,

as we go along

Driving in Florida winterland.

In the meadow, we can’t build a snowman

‘Cause Santa and his elves are riding ’round

Rudolf lost his horse; he can’t be found, dear

But we can find the elves outside of town.

Later on, we’ll consider

As we sit down to our dinner

The holiday cheer

We encountered here

Driving in Florida winterland.

Happy holidays, everyone, from a transplanted New Yorker! If you’re missing out on a white Christmas this year, check out these stunning photos of National Parks covered in snow.

Catherine Balkin is a Reader’s Digest reader from Hudson, Florida. She is also a member of the Reader’s Digest contributor network.

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